In which we are surprised to discover a valuable lesson in the somewhat tenuous link between Jesus' birthplace and the kindness of Barzillai.
For this one we'll probably need reminding who exactly Barzillai was.
It's late in the reign of King David. Although his adultery with Bathsheba is a thing of the past, David continues to live with the consequences of his sin. Absalom, his rebelling son, has been killed in battle, and David is making his weary way back to the palace in Jerusalem.
And here we meet Barzillai:
"Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim; and he went on to the Jordan with the king to escort him over the Jordan. Now Barzillai was very old, being eighty years old; and he had sustained the king while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very great man." - 2 Samuel 19v31-32 (NASB)
To abridge the story a bit, David is grateful for Barzillai's support and invites him to come to Jerusalem. Being very old, Barzillai asks that any kindness the King would show him be shown instead to his grandson, Chimham.
And that's all we hear about Chimham for a good long while. In fact, we could be forgiven for thinking that David forgot his promise to Barzillai if it wasn't for one verse; a seemingly throwaway comment in Jeremiah:
"And [the people] went and stayed in
Geruth(the lodging places of) Chimham, which is beside Bethlehem, in order to proceed into Egypt" - Jeremiah 41v17 (NASB & footnote)
But there are a lot of assumptions in there.
- We assume that the Chimham referred to by Samuel and Jeremiah are the same person.
- Even if this was the case, we assume that these stables weren't owned by Chimham before his association with David.
- We also assume that these lodging places survived the captivity in some form...
- ...and that Joseph and Mary ended up in Chimham's inn, as opposed to any other inn.
To counter these points it should be noted that these are the only two passages in the Bible which refer to Chimham. For certain views of how God caused Scripture to be recorded, clearly every word is significant and there is likely to be a connection implied.
Also, it wouldn't be surprising for David to have honoured his promise by giving Chimham a plot of land near his home town.
On balance I have this one filed under "wouldn't be surprised", and intend to follow it up sometime with Chimham himself.
Whether or not David's kindness to Barzillai directly connected him to Christ is immaterial. In countless ways their lives were interwoven, separated only by time; and we too hope to be part of the rich tapestry of God's plan for mankind.
Only time will tell what unlikely connections bind us to the faithful of old, but our faith and hope is in a God who knows the end from the beginning.